Residents walk for attention to New London neighborhood plagued by crime
New London — Residents can’t recall the last time any work or money was invested into the city-owned property called McDonald Park, whose only amenity is a picnic table situated alongside a paved area.
Located at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and McDonald Street, the park is representative of the neglect in a northern section of the city in dire need of attention and not far from where a man was shot and almost killed on Friday, said Kathleen Mitchell, one of the organizers of Tuesday’s Walk on the Wild Side.
Attempting to call attention to a neighborhood plagued by three homicides since 2010, about 50 people began Tuesday's walk at Mahan Park and traversed in a mix of snow and rain through neighborhoods along Connecticut Avenue, stopping at the park and passing near the sites of the three fatal shootings.
“It’s not exactly a parking lot, but on the other hand, it’s not exactly a park,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said neighborhood residents “are honestly afraid to let their children out to play.” She has called for increased police presence, better lighting, a crackdown on blight and more investment from the city.
Barber shop owner Kevin L. McKinnon Jr., 26, of 32 Belden St., was found by police early Friday bleeding in a car not far from the Ravi Store at 283 Broad St. Deputy Police Chief Peter Reichard said the investigation into Friday’s shooting is progressing. Detectives were able to speak to McKinnon during a visit to Yale-New Haven Hospital on Monday. McKinnon was listed in serious condition on Tuesday, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
Resident Cindy Torruella, a mother of four, has lived in the area for the past 10 years and said she was shocked by the news of the shooting. She came out Tuesday in support of “anything positive for my neighborhood.”
“It’s my neighborhood. I want it to feel safe for my kids and grand kids,” she said.
The walk ended on a solemn note at the front porch at 8 Grand St., where on Dec. 10, 29-year-old Gilberto Olivencia was shot and killed.
Olivencia’s mother, Lorraine Badillo, was in tears as she embraced family and friends, including Olivencia’s 10-year-old daughter, Angelina, on the front step. The case remains unsolved.
“We want justice. Everyone needs to step up and do their part,” said Monse Rosenbeck, Olivencia’s aunt.
Two other shootings led to the Aug. 29, 2013, death of Jesus Pinero and the March 3, 2010, death of 21-year-old Rahmel Perry.
Tuesday’s walk was organized by Mitchell, the organizer of the controversial community Facebook page Whale Tales Two, and local community activist Carl Lee, leader of the group Citizens On Patrol.
Referring to the area as “ground zero,” Mitchell said that if any of the conditions there existed in “SOHO,” her term for south of Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, “how long do you think they would exist? They wouldn’t.”
Inspiration for the walk came from the massive number of hits from well-wishers to the Facebook page when news of Friday’s shooting was posted.
Lee called for a reinvigoration of neighborhood groups that he said had disbanded through the years.
Mayor Michael Passero attended the event with Interim Chief Administrative Officer Steven Fields and a contingent of New London police officers and firefighters. State Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London, and city councilors Anthony Nolan, Martha Marx and Don Venditto were also on hand.
“We’re working on beefing up our public safety operations and working in that neighborhood to root out criminal elements,” Passero said.
In addition, he said the hiring of a human services director can work on social issues impacting neighborhoods across the city. He said economic development proposals for the area would help in the revitalization effort.
Former New London police captain Ken Edwards Jr. made an impassioned plea for neighbors to enlist friends and family to solve the problems plaguing the neighborhood.
“The only thing that ever got anything done is when people are angry and say ‘enough is enough,’” Edwards said. “It’s got to start with your neighbors.”
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